Target: New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department
Goal: Increase the frequency of home visits required for adoptive parents to help prevent and detect child abuse.
An eight-year old girl, who suffers from a condition which makes her head unusually small, was discovered by police locked in a cage, which only contained a small mattress. This wooden cage was described to be four feet high, two feet wide and five feet long. The child had apparently been locked in the cage for several hours while her guardian took the other children in the household to the movies. Her guardian, Cindy Patriarchias, was in the process of adopting the girl before this incident occurred.
In order to adopt a child, prospective parents must fulfill a variety of requirements, including financial screenings, home visits, and parenting classes. However, if adoption agencies conduct home visits so infrequently or inadequately that no one noticed a wooden cage being built and kept in the child’s room, then we are not doing enough to protect our nation’s children. Particularly since this child is a special-needs child, it would seem logical that additional inspections would be made to ensure that she was placed with highly skilled parents. Yet, in the process of adoption, it was not until Patriarchias’ ex-boyfriend suspected that the child might have been left at home unattended that police were notified of the abuse taking place in the home.
Patriarchias is being charged with negligent child abuse and the child has been removed from her care. However, in order to prevent further child abuse in adoptive families, adoption agencies need to collaborate with New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) to ensure that children are being placed in safe homes. Please ask New Mexico’s CYFD to increase home visits for adoptive parents so that child abuse can be prevented and detected earlier.
Dear New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department,
While your statewide effort to protect the youth of New Mexico is commendable, the recent national story regarding Cindy Patriarchias and the 8-year old child she was trying to adopt has created major safety concerns about the New Mexico adoption process. While no system can possibly prevent all child abuse and neglect, it is worrisome that while Ms. Patriarchias was going through the adoption process, home visits were too infrequent or inadequate to detect the wooden cage that was built and placed in the child’s room. The little girl was locked inside this cage, with only a mattress in it, for several hours on at least one occasion.
As you know, the little girl who was being adopted by Ms. Patriarchias had a developmental disorder and likely required special care and especially capable parents. Because of her special needs, it seems logical that additional screenings would be necessary to ensure that the girl was placed with highly skilled parents in a safe environment. Yet, in this case, screenings and home visits were not enough to prevent her abuse.
In order to prevent tragedies such as this from occurring in the future, it is necessary to consider additional measures which will help to prevent and detect child abuse and neglect. Please increase home visits for prospective adoptive parents to help ensure that children are not being abused.
[Your Name Here}
Photo Credit: Adoption Services via Jssa.org